Letter of resignation

Dear <chairs>, I am resigning my Assistant Professor position at Michigan State University effective January 2nd, 2015. Sincerely, CTB. Anticipated FAQ: Why? I’m moving to UC Davis. Do you have an employment contract with UC Davis?? Nope. But I’m starting there in January, anyway. Or that’s the plan. And yes, that’s how this kind of thing happen. …

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Woo

This week I learned that science has figured out how to quantify woo. I was sitting around listening to a group of friends talking about some goofy HR instrument for classifying a person’s relative strengths and weaknesses in group interactions. They were saying that only one member of their team had “woo” as a strength. …

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Feynman Lectures: Epilogue

The full text of The Feynman Lectures is now available online. These lectures were originally delivered to satisfy the physics requirement for first and second year students at Caltech. Legend has it that as the lectures went on, fewer and fewer undergraduates were seen in attendance, with their places taken by graduate students and even members …

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Tannate Patination of Iron

Tannic acid patination is an ancient technique for forming a dark protective coating on iron objects. It may have been discovered accidentally, after iron objects were lost or buried in peat bogs, then recovered later in an unrusted condition. Iron Age bog bodies have been found with intact iron blades, more than a thousand years …

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CRISPR patent fight

Earlier CRISPR posts. MSU symposium with video (Patrick Hsu, one of the speakers (no relation), is from the Zhang lab). Technology Review: Discovery of the Century? There’s a bitter fight over the patents for CRISPR, a breakthrough new form of DNA editing. … In April of this year, Zhang and the Broad won the first of several sweeping patents that cover …

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Economics hegemony

Sociologists decry the ascendance of economics in the social sciences. See also Venn diagram for economics, Confessions of an economist, and Summers and Shleifer: (Ellison, an anthropologist, was Dean of the Graduate School under Summers.) Over lunch not long after Summers took over the presidency in 2001, Ellison said, Summers suggested that some funds should be moved from a …

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Breaking All (or some of!) the Rules: Finding Subversion in the Historical Record

As I’ve researched female students on the historical campus this past semester, I keep finding that humor and resiliency are recurring themes in their scrapbooks and journals. Interestingly, it seems that the mechanism of humor may have been used to deflect contentious attitudes about the female presence on a campus that had been historically male-oriented …

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Big Oil Spoils North Dakota

Big oil companies in North Dakota said their impact on the environment would be minimal. They lied.  The citizens of Tioga witnessed the largest land oil spill in recent American history in September, 2013.  Also in 2013, the locomotive of an oil train derailed and exploded in a collision near Casselton.  This year North Dakotans discovered illegally dumped …

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Looking for a Deal

The Raw Deal or Some May Call the Real Deal As my fingers hunt for the right keys on this laptop, millions of my fellow citizens, are out hunting for a ‘deal’, a ‘bargain’. Black Friday is the penultimate holiday for consumerism in the U.S. And for a large majority of those bargain hunters, price …

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The most-viewed YouTube videos

Earlier this week, Google announced that Psy’s insanely viral YouTube music video, Gangnam Style, officially broke the 2,147,483,647 view barrier. What’s significant about that number, you ask? That’s the largest number that can be encoded by a 32-bit integer number. The folks at Google never suspected a video would exceed 2 billion views until Gangnam …

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Counterpoint: iPads in the UAE

Since I wrote last month about a failed experiment to bring iPads to the hands of all children in LA’s public school district, I wanted to find a contrasting story that illustrated successful adoption. I stumbled across an article in the journal Interactive Technology and Smart Education that provides an interesting counterpoint. The article describes …

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